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tv   Attorney General Calls Collusion Accusations a Detestable Lie  CSPAN  June 13, 2017 5:36pm-8:01pm EDT

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leaked out. any democrat would easily make themselves a martyr if they were to release that information and this has not been done. i think you can see pretty clearly that this is not going anywhere. they're not offering anything to americans. they're saying we will tear down the current democratcally elected administration and they're not saying we'll offer a better tax plan, we'll offer a better infrastructure plan. if they don't do that, it's going to get a lot worse for them in washington journal live on c-span at 7:00 a.m. eastern. we'll show all of the hearing tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and that will be over on c-span 2. next up show you a good chunk here on c-span3 starting with opening statements.
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>> i'd like to call the hearing to order, please.
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attorney general sessions, i appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee today. i thank you for your years of dedicated service as a member of this body and your recent leadership at the department of justice. as ie mentioned when director comey appeared before us last week, this committee's role is to be the eyes and ears for the other 85 members of the united states senate and for the american people, ensuring that the intelligence community is operating lawfully and has the necessary tools to keep america safe. the community is a large and diverseth place. we recognize the gravity of our investigation into russia's interference in the 2016 elections. butt i remind constituents that while we investigate russia we
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are scrutinizing cia's budget -- while we're investigating russia, we are still scrutinizing cia's budget, nsa's 702 program, the nation's satellite program and the entire i.c. effort to recruit and retain the best talent we can findnd in the world. morere often than not the committee conducts work s behin closed doors. a necessary step to ensure the most sensitive sources and methods arean protected. the sangtty of the sources and methods are at the heart of the intelligence community's ability to keep us safe and to keep our allies safed from those who see to harm us. i've said repeatedly that i do believe any committee -- that the committee does should be done in public. but i also recognize the gravity of the committee's current investigation and the need for the american people to be presented the facts so that they might make their own judgments.
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it is for that reason that this committee has now held its 10th open hearing of 2017. more than doublee that of the committee in recent years, and thes fifth on the topic of russian interference. attorney general sessions, this venue is your opportunity to separate fact from fix fiction opinion andes to retire the recd freight og a a number of issues reported if the press. for example there are a number of issues "i" hopeful we will dress to do. number one did you have any meetings w with russian officia on the trump campaign during your time as attorney general. two what wase your voflt with te trump team and possible interactions with russians. 3 why did you recuse yourself from the russian investigation? andd fourth what role if any di
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you play in the removal of then fbi director comey? i look forward to a candid and honest i discussion as we contie to pursue the truth behind russia's interference in the 2016 elections. the committee's experienced sfaf is interviewing the rely parties having spoken to more than 35 individuals to date, to include just yesterday an interview of former homeland security secretary unjohnson. we also continue to review some of thel most sensitive intelligence in our country's poksz. as i've said previously we will establish the facts, separate from rampant speculation and lay them tout out for the people of the america to make judgment. only then will we be able to put in episode to rest and look to thees future. i'm hopeful members focus their questions today on the russia investigation and not squander the opportunity by taking political orr partisan shots.
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the vice chairman and i can continueue to lead this investigation together on what is a highly charged political issue. we may disagree at times but we remain a unified team with a dead tatd o indicated, focused and professional staff working tirelessly on behalf of the american people to find the truth. the committee has made progress as the political winds below forcefully around us. i believe all the members agree zprietatorent of public debate and what committee might be best suited to lead on this issue, the intelligence committee has lived up to its obligation to moves forward with purpose and abovee politics. mr. attorney general, it's good to havey you back. turn to the vice chairman for any t remarks he might have. >> thank you, mr. chairman. andoo i want to also thank the y we're proceeding on the investigation. it mr. attorney general it's
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good to see you again. and we appreciate your appearance on the heels of mr. comey's revealing testimony last week. i do, though want to take a moment at the outset and first express some concern with the process by which we are seeing you -- s the attorney general today. it's my understanding that you were originallyda scheduled to testify in front of the house and senate appropriations committees today. ire know the appearances have bn cancelled to come here instead. while we appreciate his testimony,ak before our committ, i believe and i peek -- i believe i speak for many of my colleagues i believe you should also answer questions from members of those committees and the judiciary committee as well process. mr. attorney it's my hope you will reschedule the appearances as soon as possible. in addition i want to say at the outset whilera we consider your appearance today as just the beginning of our interaction withey you and your department.
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mr. attorney general we have always expected to talk talk to you as part of the investigation. we believed it would be actually qu in the process. we're gladou to accommodate you requestt to speak to us today. but we also expect to have your commitment to cooperate with all future requests and make yourself v available as necessa to this committee for as the chairman has indicated this vere important investigation. now, let's move to the subject of today's discussion. let'smp start with the campaign. you were an early and ardant supporter of mr. trump. in marchor you were named as chairman of the trump's national security advisory committee. you were more than a is your fwit. you were a strategic adviser who helped shape much of the campaign's national security strategy. no doubt you will will have key insights aboutut some of the ke trump associates that were seeking to hear from in the weeks ahead. questions have also beenth rais
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about some of your own interactions with russian officials during the campaign. during your confirmation hearing inin jan you said, quote, you d not have communications with russians. senator leahy lart asked in writing whether you had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of theno russian government about theit 2016 election. you answered i believe with a definitive no. despite that fact, despite that the fact is as we discovered later he you did have interactions with russian government officials during the course of the campaign. in march you acknowledged two meetings with the russian ambassador. yet there is also some public reports of a possible third meeting at the may flower hotel on april 27th. i hope that today you will help clear up the discrepancies. we also expect and hope this is very important that you'll be willing to provide the kpt with if he documents we need to shed light on the issue such as emails or calendars. then there is the topic of the
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firing of former fbi director comey. last thursday we received testimony from mr. comey. under oath he outlined his very troubling interactions with the president. as well as the circumstances of his firing. a few disturbing points stood out. first, mr. comey, who has decades of experience at the department of justice and at the fbi serving under presidents of both parties, was so unnerved by the actions of the president that he felt, quote, compelled to fully document every interaction they had. mr. comey sat where you are sitting today and testified that he was concerned about that the president of the united states might lie about the nature of their meetings. that's a shocking statement from one of our nation's top law enforcement officials. we also heard that director comey tookt it as a direction from the president that he was
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to drop the investigation into former national security adviser mike flynn. finally we heard from mr. comey that he believes he was fired over his handling of the russia investigation. the president himself confirmed this in statements to the media. this is deeply troubling for all of us who believe on both sides of the aisle in preserving the independence of the fbi. we havepr a lot of work in orde to follow up on these' larges disclosures. mr. attorney general your testimony today is an opportunity to begin the process of asking those questions. for instance, again -- and i though others will ask about this -- you recused yourself from the russia investigation. yet you participated in the firing of mr. comey over the handling of that same investigation. we want to ask you about how you view your recusal and whether you believe you've complied with it fully. in addition we heard pr mr. comey last week that the president asked you to leave the
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oval office so he could speak one-on-one with mr. comey. again, a very concerning action. we will need to hear from you about how you reviewed- how you viewed the request and whether you thought it was appropriate. we also want to know if you are aware of any attempts by the president to enlist leaders in the interrelation community to undermine this very same russia investigation. most importantly, our committee will want to hear what you are doing to ensure that the russians or any other foreign adversaries cannot attack our democratic process like this again. i'm concerned that the president still does not recognize the severity of the threat. he to date i believe has not acknowledged the unanimous conclusions of the u.s. intelligence community that russia massively intervene in our elections. the threat we face is real and not limited to us.
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the recent events in france are again a stark reminder that all western democracies must take steps to protect themselves. i believe the united states can and must be a leader in and mus leader in the effort but all require our administration to getna serious about this matter. we have seen a concerning pattern of the officials. about allegations about the president in this investigation. we had a hearing with this subject last week. i want to commend the chairman who at the end of that hearing made very clear that our residence witnesses, it was not acceptable for them to come before congress without answer. >> attorney general general sessions, i will administer the oath to you. raise your right hand if you will please. do you solemnly swear to tell
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thee truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to help you god? >> i do. >> thank you. please be seated. thank you. the floor is yours. --pe before your committee toda. is appreciate the committee's critically importantia efforts investigate russian interference withan our democratic processes. suchte interference can never b tolerated and i encourage every effort toal get to the bottom o any such allegations. as you know, c the deputy attory general has appointed a special counsel to investigate thehe matters related to the russian interference in the 2016 election. i am here today to address several issues that have been specifically raised before this committee. and ily appreciate the opportuny to respond to questions as fully
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as the lord enables me to do so. but as i advise you, mr. chairman, in consistent with longpr standing justice practic i t cannot and will not violatey duty to protect the confidential communications with the president. -- i did not attend any meetings at that event separate prior to the speech, i attended by the president htoday, i attended a reception with my staff that included, at least, two-dozen people and president trump. though i do recall several conversations that i had during thatof free speech reception. i do not have any reck clags of meeting, talking to the russian ambassador or any other russian
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officials. i do not remember it. after the speech, i was interviewed by theff news media. there was an area for that in a different room and then i left the hotel. but whether i ever attended a reception where the russian ambassador was also present is entirely beside the point of this investigationso into russi interference in a 2016 campaign. let me state this clearly, colleagues. i have never met with or had any conversation with any russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the united states. further, i have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected with the trump campaign. i was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least, some of you. and the suggestion that i
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participated in any collusion that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country, which i haves, served with hono for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie. relatedly, there is the assertion that i did not answer senator franken's question honestly at my confirmation hearing.r colleagues, that isha false. i can'tls say colleagues now, im no longer a part of that body.ra former colleagues, that is false. this is what happened. senator franken asked me a rambling question after six hours of testimony that included dramatic new allegations that thep, united states intelligenc
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community had advised president elect trump quote that there was -- during the campaign betweenme trump's surrogates an intermediaries for the russian government close quote. i was taken aback by that allegation which he said was being reported as breaking news that very day in which i had not heard. i wanted to refute that immediately. any suggestion that i was part of such anwa activity, i replie to senatorf franken this way, quote. senator franken i am not aware of any of those activities. i didn't have communications with the russians and i am unablext to comment on it. closed quote. that was the context in which i was askeds the question and in that context, my answer was a
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fair and correct response to the charge as i i was responding to this allegation that we had met, the surrogates had t been meeting wh the russians on a regular base. and toh list any conversations that i may have had with russians in routine situations as i had many routine meetings with other foreign officials. so please hear me now. and t it was only in march, aft my confirmation hearing that a reporter asked my spokesperson whether i had ever met with any russian officials. this was the first time that question had been square posed toto me. on theta same day we provided tt reporter with the information related to the meeting that i
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and my staff held in my office withn ambassador kislyak after speech i had been given during a convention in cleveland, ohio. i alsot provided the reporter with a list of 25 foreign ambassador meetings that i had during 2016. in addition i provided supplemental testimony to the senate judicial committee to explain thiss event. so i readily acknowledge these two meetings and certainly not one thing happened that was improper inst any one of those meetings. let me also explain clearly the circumstances of my i recusal fi the investigation into the russian interference with the 2016 election. please, colleagues, hear me on this. i was v sworn in as attorney general on thursday, february 9th. the w very next day as i had
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promised to the judiciary committee -- to discuss things publicly n reported in the pres that might have bearing on whether or not iin should recus myself in this case. fromnn that point, february 10t until i announced my formal recusal on march 2nd, i was briefed on investigative detailsio and did not access an information about thear investigation. ias received the limited information that the department'sci career official determine that it was necessary for me to form and make a recusalti decision. as such i have no knowledge aboutli this investigation as i isea ongoing today beyond what s been publicly reported. i don't even read that carefully and i have taken no action whatsoever withma regard with a
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such investigation. on the date of my formal recusal,ea my chief of staff se an e-mail to the heads of relevant department including by nameuc to director comey of the fbi to instruct them, to inform their staffs of this recusal and to advise them not to brief me or involve me in any way in any such matters. and in m fact they have not. importantly, i recuse myself not because of any wrongdoing or any belief thatar i may have been involved in wrongdoing in the campaign but because of departmentat regulation. i felt the regulation required it. that regulation states that department employees should not
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participate in an investigation in a campaign -- does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the department of justice including the fbi which has an $8 billion budget and 35,000se employees. i presented to the president my concerns and those of deputy attorney general rod rosenstein about the ongoing leadership issues at the fbi as stated in my a letter recommending the removal of mr. comey along with the deputy attorney general's memorandum on that issue. which had been released publicly by the white house. those represent a clear statement of myra views. is adopted deputy attorney generall rod rosenstein points
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and made my recommendation. would render the attorney general unable to manage the leadership of the various department of justice law enforcement o components that conduct thousands of investigations. finally, during his h testimony mr. comey discussed a conversation that he and i had about the meeting mr. comey and i had with the president. i am happy to share my recollection of that conversation i had with comey. following a routine morning threat briefing mr. comey spoke to me. while he did not provide me in of the substance of the conversation with the president, mr. comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol with the white house and withdi the president.
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i responded, he didn't recall this, but i responded to his comment by agreeing that the fbi and the department of justice needed tos be careful to follow departmente. policies regarding appropriate contacts with the white house. comey had served in the department for better than two decades. and i was confidence that he understood and would abide by the well established rules limiting communications with the white house especially about ongoing that is what is so important to control. my comments encouraged him to do just that and as i understand it,on he in fact did that. ourte department of justice rul on proper communications between the department and the white house have been in place for years. mr. comey well knew them. i thought and assumed correctly that hee complied with them. so i will finish with this. i recuse myself from any
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investigation into the campaign for but i did not recuse myself from defending my honor against secufalse allegations. at allel times, and since becomg attorney general, i have dedicated myself to the highest standards. iibe earned a reputation for th ateo home and in this body i believe, over decades of performance. the people of this country expect an honest and transparent government and that's what we are giving them. this president wants to focus on the people of this country to ensure that they are treated fairly and keptno safe. the trumpif agenda is to improv there lives of the american people. i know some have different ways achieving this and different agendas, but that is his agenda
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and one i share. as an attorney general i have the responsibility to enforce the laws of this nation. andd to protect this nation fro enemies anday to ensure the fai administration of justice. and i intend to work every day with our fine team and superb professionals to advance the work wee have tong. these falseou atax, the inw -- e inwen dos have not intimidated me. my duty to support crime. just last week, it was reported that overdoseed deaths in this country are rising faster than ever recorded. last year was 52,000.
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"the new york times" juste estimated nextp year will be 62,000 overdose deaths. the murder rate is up over 10%. the largest increase since 1968. together, we are telling the gangs, the cartels, the fra fraudsteres, and theho terroris, wewe are coming after you. no matter who they are, or where they live, has the right to be safe in theiral communities. i will not allow this department to be g deterred from its vital mission. thank you. i have a great honor to be here before you today. >> general sessions, thank you for that testimony. i would like to note for
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members -- andio i would like t remind our members that we are inin open session. references to classified or committee sensitive materials should beis used relative to yo questions. with that, i recognize myself at this time for ten minutes. you talked about the mayflower hotel, and it has been covered in the press that the president was there, you were there and othersy, were there.t from your testimony, you said you don't remember whether ambassador kislyak was there, is thatt correct? >>st i did not remember, but i understand he was there. and so i don't doubt that he
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was. i believe that representation is correct. b in fact i recently saw a video coming into the room. >> but you never remember having a conversation or a meeting with ambassador kislyak? >>te i do not. >> and in that event was there ever a private room setting that you were involved in? >> no. other than the reception area that was shut off from i guess the main crowd, a couple two to three-dozen people. > i would take advantage, inn event like this, the president came in and shook hands. >> yes he shook hands. >> youou mentioned there were se staff with you at that event. >> my -- >> your r senate staff? >> senate legislative director who is a retired u.s. army
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colonel was we me. >> would you say you were there as a united statesth senator ors a surrogate for the campaign. >> i came there as an interested person veryrs anxious to see ho president trump wouldy do in hi first major foreign policy address. i believe he had only given him oneer major speech before, so i was an interesting time for me to observe his delivery and the message he would make. was my main purpose of being ythere. >> now youin reported two other meetingsth with ambassador kiss slee -- kislyak.h have you had any other interactions with government officialsm over the year in a
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campaignn capacity?>> i'm not asking you from a standpoint of your single life, in a campaign capacity. >> no, mr. chairman, i racked my brain to make sure i could answer any of those questions correctly, and p i did not. i would just offer a for you th when askedsi about whether i ha any meetings with the russians by the reporter in march, we immediately recalled the conversation, the encounter i had at the conventionic and be e me meeting in my office and made that g public. i never intended not to include that. i would have gladly reported the meeting, thewe encounter that m havet occurred, that some say occurred in the mayflower if i had remembered it. >>us on march, 2nd 2017, you
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recused yourself --us what are e specificel reasons that you cho to recuse yourself? >> well the specific reason, mr. chairman is a cfr code of federal regulations put out by thest department of justice par of theit department of justice rules and it says this. i will read from it. 28 cfr unless authorized no employees should participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person involved in a conduct of an investigation. on to say for political, in a political campaign.
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and it says if you have a close identification with an elected official or candidate arising from service as a principal adviser, you should not participate m in an investigati of that campaign.f so many have suggested that my recusal is because i felt i was a subject of the investigation myself. that i may have done something wrong. is the reason i recuse myself. i felt i was required to under the rules of the department of justice and as ae leader of the department of justice i should comply with the rules, obviously. >> did yourtion legal counsel basically know from day one you would have to recuse yourself of this investigation because of the current statute. >> i do have a time line of what occurred. i was sworn in on the 9th i believe of m february, and thenn
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the 10th had my first meeting to genuinely discuss this issue wherean the cfr was not discuss. we had several other meetings and it became clear to me over time that i qualified as a significants principal adviser type person to the campaign. and it was the appropriate and right thing for me to recuse myself. >> this could explain director comey'sou comments that he knew there was a likelihood that you would recuse yourself because he was familiar with the same statute? >> probably show. i am sure theet attorneys in th department of justice probably communicated with him. because mr. chairman, let me say this toys you clearly, in effec as a matter of fact, i recused myself that i never received any information
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about theng campaign. i thought there was a problem with me being able to serve as attorney general over thisec issue. and i felt i would possibly have to recuse myself and i took the position correctly, i believe not to involve myself in the campaign in any way and i did not. >> you made a reference to your chief of staff sending out an e-mail immediately notifying internally of your decision to recuse. would you ask your chief of staff to make m that e-mail available? >> we would be pleased to do so. and i think i have it with me right now. >> thank you. have you had interactions with the special counsel robert mueller since his appointment? >> i havey, with regard to the e-mail, mr. comey, director comey indicated he didiv not know whei recused myself or did not receive notice, one of those e-mails went to him by name.
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a lot happens in our office. in fact it was sent to him and to his name. >> okay.e general sessions, as you said, mr. comey testified at length beforeos the committee about hi interactions with the president and in some cases highlighting your presence at the meetings. andat you addressed the meeting where all d were asked to leave except for mr. comey and he had a private meeting with the president and you said he did inform you of how uncomfortable that was. l and yourth recommendation was tt the fbi and doj needed to follow the rules limited further correspondence. did mr. comey ever express additional conversations -- two additional meetings and i think six phone calls.
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is correct. there is nothingct wrong with t president having communication with the fbi director. what is problematic for any department of justicers employe is to talk to any cabinet persons or white house officials, high officials about ongoinghr investigations that a not properly cleared through the topp levels of the department o justice. and so it wasgh at regulation t i think is healthy. i thought we needed and strongly believe we needed to restore discipline within our departmet to adhere to those kind of rules plus leaking rules and some of the other t things that i think are a bit lack ax and need to b restored. >> you were neverd briefed on te investigation. >> that is correct. i would note that with regard to
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the private meeting that comey had, several of the hese had with president trump a two with president obama. so it is not improper per se, but would not be justified for a department official to share information about an ongoing investigation without prior l review and clearance from above. >> general sessions, one last question. you were the s chair of this foreign policy team for the trump campaign. to the best of your noknowledge did that team ever meet? >> we met a couple of times maybe. some of the people did. but we never functioned frankly, mr. chairman, as a coherent team. we had -- >> were there any members of that>> team you never met? yes. >> okay.
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vice chairman? >> w thank you, general session. as i mentioned in my owning statement, we appreciate your appearance here. i would like c to get your commitment that you agree to make yourself available as the committee needs in the weeks and months ahead? >> senator o warner, i will commitment to appear before this committee and other committees as appropriate. i don't think it is good policy to c continually bring cabinet members or the attorney general for multiple committees going over the same thing -- >>ha let me just ask this -- >> i just gave you my answer. >> whatt about, can we get your commitment since there will be questions about someet of these meetings that took place or not that we can get access to documents or memoranda, your daybook oria something so we can -- >> mr. chairman, we will be glad to provide appropriate responses
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to your questions and review -- >> thank you. yesterday, a friend to the president was reported to suggestingpe that president tru was considering removing director mueller as special counsel. do i you have confidence in director mueller's ability to conduct the investigation fairl- and impartially. >>- first of all, i don't know about the reports and have no basis toto ascertain the validih i have known mr. mueller over the years. 12 years ass>> an fbi director. and i knew him before that so i have confidence -- >> you have confidence that he can do his job. >> -- i am not going to discuss anysi hypotheticals -- i know nothing about the investigation. >> do you believe the president has confidence in mr. mueller? >> i have no idea.
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>> will you -- director mueller's firing or dismissal? >> well, i can say that with confidence because i am recused from theha investigation. fact, the way it works, senator warner, is the acting attorney general is -- >> i am aware of that. i want to get you on the record -- with your recusal, you would not take any actions to have special investigator mueller to be removed. >> i don't think that would be appropriate for me to do. > thank you. to your knowledgeiv have any -- beenat involved on any possibilities about presidentiah pardons. >> mr. chairman, i am not able to comment w on conversations wh high officials in the white house. that would be a violation of the
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communications rule that i have to adhere to. >> just so i can understand, is the basis of that unwillingness based on executive privilege or what? >> as long standing policy, the department of justice not to comment on conversations that the attorney general has had with the president of the united states for confidential reasons that really are founded in the co-equalre branch powers constitution of the united states. >> just so i am>> understanding aree you claiming executive privilegee today here. >> sir. >>her i am not claiming executi privilege,ab i have no power -- >> what about other -- white house positions about potential pardons?rd >> without any way suggesting
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that ith had any other conversations concerning pardons, there are privileges f communications within the department of justice that wee share, all of us do.eo we have a right to have full and robust debates within the department of justice. we encourage people to speak up and argue cases on different sides. and those arguments are't b not be revealed. historically, we have seen they should not be revealed. >> i was hoping that you would agree that if t the president o others would pardon someone during the midst of this investigation while our investigation or director mueller's investigation, that would be problematic. one of the comments you made in your testimony was that you reachedn this conclusion about the performance of then t direcr comey's ability a to lead the f. that you agreed with deputy
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attorney general rosenstein's mem oho -- did you ever have a conversation about hisis failur to perform. did you have any conversations with director comey about those subjects? >> i did not. >>y so you were his superior, ad there were some fairly harsh things said about director comey. you never thought it was appropriate to raise those concerns before he was actually terminated by the president? >> i did not do so. a memoranda was prepared by the deputy attorney general who evaluated his performance, noted some serious problems with it. >> andor you agreed with those solutions? >> i agreed with those.
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in fact, senator warner, we talked about a it even before i was f confirmed and he was confirmed. it iss something that we both agreedan to that a fresh start the fbi was the best. >> i i could understand if you before you that came on. you had a chance for fresh t start, there was no fresh start. suddenly we are in the midst of the, investigation and with timing that seems peculiar, at least, to me, out of the blue, the president fires the fbi director. and if there are all these problems of disarray, all things that the acting director of the fbi denies was the case, i would think somebodyea would have had that conversation with director comey. let's go to the april 27th meeting, you had already been named as the chair of then candidatete trump's national
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security adviser. >> that was the mayflower hotel? >> yes sir. and my understanding was the president's son-in-law jared kushner was at that meeting as well? he slwas, yes. >> you don't recollect if he had conversations with ambassador ki kislyak? >>yog i do not. certainly i can assure you nothing improper, if i had a conversation withng him and it conceivable that that occurred. i just don't remember. >> whenth you had a chance and u did, and i appreciate, you corrected the record about the other two sessions in response to senator franken and senator
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leahy. >> possibly i had a meeting, but i still do not recall it and i did not in any way fail to record something in my testimony in my subsequent letter intentionally false. >> i understand that.cho i am trying to understande when youu corrected the record and clearly by the time you had a chance a to correct the record, would have thought that you would q have known that ambassar kislyak was at that session. it received quite a bit of press notoriety. and echoing what the chairman said, again, for the record, there was no other meeting with any other officials of the russian government during the campai campaign season? >>rr not to my recollection. withkn the two encounters, one
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the mayflower hotel, i came there not knowing he would be there. didn't have any communications with him before or after that event.enff and likewise, at the event at the convention, i went off the convention grounds to a college campus for an event that had been h set up -- >> at the mayflower. >> let me follow up on that one. >> at the mayflower there was a vip reception first. >> that's my recollection. >> and you were part of the vip reception? >> yes. >> oner. of the troubling thing that i need to sort through is mr. comey's testimony last week was that he felt uncomfortable when the president asked
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everyone else to leave the room. he left the impression that you lingered, i am going to allow youte to answer and correct if that is not the right impression. after this meeting took place which clearly director comey had some level of uncomfortableness, you never asked director comey what took place at that meeting? >> let me say it this way, we were there, and i was standing there and without revealing any conversation that tookk place, what i do recall is that i did depart, i believe everyone else did depart and director comey was sitting in front of the so president's desk and they were talking. that iss what i do remember. i believe it was the next day that he said something expressed concern about being left alone with the president. that in itself is not problematic. he didpr not tell me at that ti
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any details about anything that was said that was improper. i affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the department of justice and backed him up on his concerns. in a way that was not proper. i felt he so long in the department -- knew those policies probably a great deal better than i did. >>it it did feel that mr. comey felt the conversation was improper? >> he was or concerned about it. and t his recollection is consistent with my recollection. >> gooed to hear you talk about how important this russian
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interference in our active campaign hais. i don't think there is any american would disagree with the fact that we need to know what happen and getom it out in fron of thehe american people. as youou probably know on february 14th, "the new york times"st published an article alleging that there was constant communications between the trump campaign and the russians in collusionit regarding the election. do you recall that article when its came out? >> not exactly. >> generally? >>s generally i remember those charges. >> mr. comey told us that he had a specific in fact he chased it down through the intelligence community and not able to find a sin tilla of evidence.
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no such facts anywhere that corroborated with what "the new york times" reported. nonetheless after this committee took that on is one of the things that we spent more time on that than we have on the russian act of measures. we have been through thousands of pages of information. ander we are no different than where we were when this whole thing started and no reports that i know of ofar any factual information. >>m is that arose from the dossier? >> well anywhere. >> i believe that is the report that senator franken hit me with when i was testifying. and i think it has been substantially discredited. but you wouldld know more than am but what was said that would suggest that i participate in continuing communications with the russians as a surrogate is
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absolutely false. >> t mr. sessions, there has be all ofru this talk about conversations and you had conversations wither the russia. senators up here who are on either foreign relations, intelligence, armed services, conversations withe officers of other governments or ambassadors or what have you are every day occurrences here, multiple time occurrences is that a fair statement. >> i think it is. >> if w you run into them in a grocery store, there is a conversation. >>on could very well happen. >> when it comes to our would be certainly improper and illegal, is that a statement? >> absolutely. >> are you willing to sit -- where i there was collusion between the trump campaign and
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any other foreign government. >> i can say that absolutely, and i have no hesitation to do so.f mr. session, you are former u.s. attorney -- you participated in campaign. and as such you traveled with the campaign i gathered. >> i did. >> you spoke for the campaigns. >> on a number of occasions. >> based on your experience and your participation in the campaign, did you hear even a whisper or a suggestion or anyone making reference within thatat campaign that somehow th ru russians were involved in that?? >> i did not. >> what would you have done if you heard that. >> well i would have been shocked and known it was improper. >> and headedtter for the exit suppose. >> maybe. this isa a serious matter. because what you are talking about,nd hacking into a private person or t dnc computer and
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obtaining information and t spreading that out, that is not right. and i believe it islyed likely laws were violated if that actually occurred. so it is an improper thing. >> mr. sessions, has any person from theni white house or the administration including the president of the united states either directed you or asked you to do new unlawful or illegal act sinceai you have been attory general of the united states. >> no. did not. >> thank you. >> senator feinstein? >> thanks very much. o mr. chairman, welcome, attorney general. >> thank you. >> on mayenst 19th, mr. rosenst in a statement to the house of representatives,o essentially told them that he learned on may 8th that president trump intended to remove director
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comey. when you wrote your letter on may or9, did you know the president had already decided to fire director comey? >> i would say i believe it has been made public that the president askeds us our opinion. it was given. and hean asked us to put that i writing.g. and i don't know how much more heit said about it than that. but i believe he has talked about it and i would let his words speak for themselves. >> well, on may 11th on nbc nightly news, two days later, the president stated he was going to fire comey regardless of the recommendation. so i am puzzled about the recommendation because the decision had been made.en so what was the need for you to write a recommendation?
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>> w well, we were asked our opinion. andd when we expressed it, whic was consistent with the memorandum and letter we wrote, i felt comfortable and i guess the deputy attorney general did toooi in providing that information in writing. >> so do you concur with the president thaten he was going t fire comey regardless of recommendation becauseat the problem was the russian investigation? >> senator feinstein, i guess i will just have to let his words speak for himself. i was not sure what was in his mind explicitly when we talked to him. >> did you discuss senator comey's handling of the fbi investigation with thel presidet ori' anyone else. >> that would call for a communication between the
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attorney general and the president and i am not able to commentha on that. >>s you are not able to answer the question here whether you ever discussed that with him? >> that's correct. >> and how do you view that sincee you discussed his termination, why wouldn't you discuss the reasons? m >> well, those were put in writing and sent to the president and he made those public. so he made that public -- >> so you had no verbal conversation with him about the firing of mr. comey? >> i am not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature s of a private conversations that i may have had with the president on this subject or others. and i know how this will be d discussed, but that is the rule thatkn has been long adhered toy
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the department of justice as you know, senator feinstein. >>e you are a long time colleague,nt but we heard mr. coats, and we heard admiral rogers say essentially the same thing, when it was easy just to say if the answer was no, no. >> well it would be easy to say if it was yes, yes, but both would have been improper. >> okay. so how exactly were you involved in thehe termination of directo comey? because i am looking at your letter dated may 9th. and youfa say the director of t fbi must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles who sets the right example of our law enforcement officials, therefore i must recommend that you remove director comey and identify an
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experienced qualified individual to lead the great men and women of theha fbi. do you really believe that this had to do with director comey's performance with the men and women of the fbi? >> there was a clear view of minene and of deputy attorney general rosenstein as he set out in some length of his memoranda which i adopted and sent forward to theud president that we had problems there and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the fbi was the appropriate thing to do. and when asked, i said that to the president as something i would o adhere to, rosenstein's letter, mr. comey declined the
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clinton prosecution that was a usurpation. it was a stunning development. the fbi is an investigative team. they don't decide prosecution policies. so that was a thunderous thing. hey commented at some length of the declaration of the clinton investigation. you don't talk about it. there were other things that had happened thatid indicated to me lack of discipline. and it caused controversy on both sides of the aisle and i come to the conclusion that a fresh startha was appropriate a did not mind putting that in writing. >> my time isng up. thank you very gmuch. >> thank you. > senator rubio. >> i want to go back to the 14th
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and close the loop on the details. so there was a meeting in the ovalnc office on the 14th. the, meeting concluded, the president askedho director come to staymm behind, correct? >> that is a communication in the white house that i would not comment on. >> you remember seeingg him sta behind?s, >> yes. >> and his testimony was that you and his view was you lingered because you knew hein needed to stay. that wasec his characterization. do you remembered lingering? >> i do recall being one of the laster ones to leave. >> did n you decide to be the lt one to leave. > i don't know how that occurred. a number of people were there and a number of people were filtering outne and i eventuall
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left.yo i doha recall, i think i was on of the last twot or three to leave. >> would it be fair to say that you felt that you needed to stay because itha involved the fbi director? >> wellle i don't know how i wod characterize that, i left.i it didn't seem to me to be a major problem. i knew that director comey long time experienced in the department of justice could handlepr himself well. >> he characterized -- it is not appropriate. and he said, this his his characterization, you justit shrugged as if to say what am i to do about it. >> i think i described it more completely,ev correctly. he raised that issue with me. i believexp the next day. i think that was correct. and het expressed concern to me about that private conversation. and i agreed with him
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essentially that there are rules on private conversations with the president. but there is not a prohibition on a private discussion with the president as i believe he has acknowledged six or more himself with president obama and president trump. so i didn't feel like -- and he gave s me no detail about what was that he was concerned about. so i didn't say i wouldn't be able to respond if he called me. he certainly knew that with regard, that he could call his direct supervisor which in the department of justice, the directde supervisor to the fbi theo deputy attorney general. he could have complained to the deputy or to me at any time if he felt pressured. but i had no doubt that he would not yield to any pressure. >> do you know if the president records conversations in the oval office orfa anywhere in th
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office? >> i do not. >> let me ask you this, if in fact any president would record conversations in their official duties in the white house or the like, would there be obligation to reveal those records? i don't know, probably so. >> i want to go to the campaign for a moment. it has been reported that russian intelligence agencies often do not pose as officials but as businessman or as the like. in hindsight, you look at and wonder? >> i don't believe in my conversations with the three times -- >> not -- just in general. >> well, i met a lot of people, a lot of foreign officials who wanted to argue their case for
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their country and to point out things thatan they thought were important w for their countries. yes, that is a normal thing i guess we talk about. >> as far as someone who is not an official from anothertr country, just a business man or someone who struck you as trying to find out what the campaign is upup to. youu don't remember in hindsigh anyone who appeared suspicious? >> i don't recall it now. >> my last question, the republicanan platform was chang to i not provide defensive weaps to ukraine. do you know who was involved in making thatic change? active in the platform committee and did not participate inha that and don't think that i i had direct involvement. >> do you have any recollection of a debate about that issue internally in the campaign. >> i never watched the debate.
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if't it occurred in the platfor committee, i think it did. so i don't recall that, and i would have toer think about tha >>an thank you. >> senator wyden? >> mr. chairman, i want to thank you for holding this hearing in the open in full view of the american people where it belongs.t i believe the american people have had it with stonewalling. americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions arero privileged or o limits. orow that it would be, quote, inappropriate for witnesses to tell us what they know. we are talking about an attack onpt our democratic institution and stonewalling of any kind of unacceptable. and general sessions has acknowledged thatth there is no legal basis for the stonewalling.. so last thursday i asked former
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director comey about the interactions withai you prior t your stepping aside to the russian investigation. mr. comey said that your continued -- and he, mr. comey could not discuss it in public. mr. comey also said that fbi personnel had been callingas fo you to step aside from the no investigation, at least, two weeks before you finally did so. now, in your prepared statement, you stated you received only quote, limited information necessary to inform your recusal decision. but given director comey's statement, we need to know what that was. were youth aware of any concern that the fbi or elsewhere in government about yourta contact with the russians relevant to
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whether you should step aside of the investigation. >> senator wyden, i am not stone walling. i am following the historic policy off justice. you don't walk into hearing or committee meeting and reveal confidentialh communications wih the president of the united states who is entitled to receive confidential communications andnd your best judgment about a host of issues. andd have to be accused of stonewalling for not answering that. so i would push backse on that. second, mr. comey, perhaps he did notot know, but i basically recused myself the first day i got into office because i never accessed files. i never met with them, i never asked for documentation. t documentation, what little i
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received was already in the media and was presented by the senior professional responsibility attorney in the department. made an honest and proper decisionon to recuse myself as told senator feinstein and the members of the committee i would do when they confirmed me. >> general sessions, respectfully, you arere not answering n the question. >> well what is the question? >> the question is, mr. comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn't talk about them. what are they? >> why don't you tell me? thereer are none, senator wyden. i canno tell you that for absole certainty. this is a secret inwen do being leaked out there about me and i don't appreciate it.
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it is really, people are suggesting through inwendo that i have not been honest about maters and i am trying to be honest. >> you made your point. >> well senator wyden, he did not say that. >> heob said it was problematic. and i asked you what was problematic about it. >> some of thatt leaked outs of the committee that he said in closed sessions. >> okay. one more question. iqu asked former fbi director whether your role in firing him violated your recusal given that president trump t said he fired comeys because of the russian investigation. ask you point blank, why did you sign the letter recommending the firing ofg director comey when it violated your recusal?
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>> it did not violate my recusal. it did not violate my recusal. that would be the answer to that. and the letter that i views tha beenre formulated for some time. >> mr. chairman, just if i could finish,rm that answer in my vie doesn't pass the t smell test. the president tweeted repeatedly about his anger at investigations into his associates in russia. the day before you wrote your letter, he tweeted the collusion story wasus a total hoax and asd when will this taxpayer funded charade end. i don't think your answer passes the smelld test. >> well, senator wyden, i think i should be allowed to briefly respond at least and would say the letter, the memorandum that senator -- that deputy rosenstein wrote and my letter that accompanied it represented my views of the situation. >> i'll ask that on the second
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round. thank >> senator collins. >> thank you, mr. chairman. attorney general sessions, i want to clarify who did what with regard to the firing of mr. comey. first of all, let me ask you when did you have your first conversation with rod rosenstein about mr. comey? talked about it before either onee of us were confirme. it was a topic of, you know, conversation about -- among people who'd served in the department aep long time. they knew that what had happened that fall was pretty dramatically unusual. many people felt it was very wrong. it was in that context that we discussed it. and we w both found that we shad commonmm view that a fresh star would be appropriate.e. >> and this was based on mr.
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comey's handling of the investigation involving hillary clinton in which you said that he usurpined the authority of t prosecutors at the department of justice? >> yes, ath that was part of it. the commenting on the investigation in ways that go beyond the proper policies, we need to restore senator collins. i think the classic discipline in the department, my team, we'vee discussed this. there's been too much leaking and too much talking publicly about investigations. in the long run, the department historic rule lets you remain mum about ongoing investigations is theve better policy. >> now, subsequently, the president asked for t you to pu your views in writing. you'vein testified today. and i believe that you werere right to recuse yourself from the ongoing russian
6:53 pm but then on may 9th you wrote te the president recommending that mr. comey be dismissed. and obviously this went back many months to the earlier conversations youou had had wit mr. rosenstein. but my question is why do you believe that your recommendation to fire director comey was not inconsistent with your march 2nd recusal? >> thank you. the recusal involved one case involved in the department of justice. and in the fbi. they conduct thousands of investigations. i'm the attorney generalal of t united states. it's my responsibility to our judiciaryee committee and other committees toth ensure that tha department is run properly. i have to make difficult
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decisions and i do not believe that it is a sound position to say that if you're recused for a single case involving any one of the great agencies like dea or u.s..s marshals or atf that are part of a the department of justice, you can'tou make a decision about the leadership in that agency. >> now, if you had known that the president subsequently was going to go on tv and in an interview with lester holt of nbc would say that this russian thing was the reason for his decision to dismiss the fbi director, would you have felt uncomfortable about the timing of it? >> i don't think it's appropriate to dealhi with thos kind of hypotheticals. i have to deal in actual issuesn
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i would respectfully not commenn on that. >> well, let me ask you this. in retrospect, do you believe that itld would have been bette for you to have stayed out of thef decision to fire director comey? >> i think it's my responsibility. i bi mean, i was appointed to be attorney general supervising all is my responsibility. trying to get the best people in those agencies at the top of them is my responsibility. and i think i had a duty to do so. so. >> now director >> now, director comey testified he was not comfortableth tellin you about his one-on-one conversation with the president on february 14th. because hee believed that you would shortly recuse yourself from the russian investigation which you did. yet director comey testified that he told no one else at the
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department outside of the senior leadership team at the fbi. do you believe that the director had an obligation to bring the informatio about the president saying that heut hoped he could let michael flynn go to someone else at the department of justice? there are an awful lot of lawyers at the department of justice. some 10,000 by last count. > i think the appropriate thg would have been for director comey to talk with the acting deputy attorney general who is his direct supervisor. that was dana boente who had 33 years in the department of justice. and was even then still serving a -- for six years and continues to serve as attorney general appointed by president obama. so he's a man of great integrity and everybodyri knows it. a man of decency and judgment.
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if he had concerns,cy i think h should have raised it to deputy attorney general boente who would be thene appropriate pers in any case, really. but if he had any concern that i might be h recusing myself, tha would be a double reason for hm to share it with deputy attorney general boente. >> thank you. >> senator heinrich. >> has the president ever expressed frustration to you regarding your decision to recuseto yourself? >> senator, i'm not able to share with this committee private communication -- >> because you'ree invoking executive >> i'm not able to invoke executive privilege. that's theiv n president's prerogative. >> my understanding is you took an oath, you raised your right hand here today and said you wouldou solemnly swear to tell e truth, the whole truth, and n nothing but the truth.h. and now you're not answering questions. you'reyo impeding this investigation.
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so my understanding of the legal standard is that you either answer the question, that's the best outcome. you say, this is classified, can't answer itsi here. i'll answer it in closed session. that's bucket number two. bucket number three is to say i'mm invoking executive privilege. there is no appropriateness bucket. it is not a legal standard. can you tell me what are these long standing doj rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoking executive privilege? withoutki executive privilege? zbh i'm protecting the president's constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to review it. and secondly, i am telling you the truth in answering your question in saying it's a long standing poll sieve the department of justice -- and to make sure the president has full >> make sure there is full
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opportunity to decide these issues. >> can you share those policies with us? are they written down at the department of justice? >> i believe they are. >> this is the appropriateness legal standard for not answering congressional inquiries. >> this is my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations. with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer. one, there are also other privileges that could be invoked. one of the things deals with can the investigation of the special council -- >> and we're not asking questions about that investigation. if i wanted to ask questions about that investigation, i'd ask those of rod rosenstein. i'm asking about your personal knowledge from this committee which has a constitutional
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obligation to get to the bottom of this. there are two investigations here. there is a special council investigation. there is also a congressional investigation. and you are obstructs that congressional delegation -- investigation by not answering these questions. and i think your silence like the silence of director coates, like the silence of admiral rogers speaks volumes. >> i would say that i have consulted with senior career attorneys in the department -- >> i suspect you have. >> -- and this is consistent with my duties. >> senator rich asked you a question about appropriateness on whether if you had known there had been anything done toward with regard to russia in the campaign, would you have headed for the exits. your response was maybe. why wasn't it a simple yes? >> well, there was an improper, illegal relationship in an effort to impede or influence
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this came pain, i absolutely would have departed. >> i think that's a good answer. i'm not sure why it wasn't the answer in the first place. i find it strange neither you or rod rhodosenstein brought up performance issues with director comey. refuted any assertion there were performance issues. this is troubling because it appears that the president decided to fire director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation and had asked you to come up with an excuse. when your assessment of director comey didn't hold up to public scrutiny, the president finally admitted he had fired director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation. i.e., the lester holt interview. you've claimed that you did not break recusal when participating in the firing. but it appears the firing was
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directly related to russia. not departmental mismanagement. how do you square those two things? >> well, you had a lot in that question. let me say first, within a week or so i believe may 3rd, director comey testified that he believed the handling of the clinton declination was a proper and appropriate and he would do it again. i know that was a great concern to both of us. because it did not -- that represented something that i think most professionals in the department of justice would totally agree that the fbi investigative agency does not decide whether to prosecute or decline criminal cases. pretty breathtaking of the responsibility of the attorney
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general. so that's how we felt. that was sort of additional concern that we had heading the fbi someone who boldly asserted the right to continue to make such decisions. that was one of the things we discussed. that was in the memorandum, i believe, and it was also a factor for us. >> before i recognize senator blunt, i would like the record to show that last nighted ed ad rogers spent almost two hours in closed session with almost the full committee of fulfilling his commitment to us in the hearing that in closed session he would answer the question. and i think it was thoroughly answered. and all members were given an opportunity to ask the question. i just want the record to show that with what senator hooin rik just stated. senator blunt. >> thank you, chairman.
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attorney general, it's good to see you here. i know there are probably other places you'd both rather be today but you always looked at public service as something you did together. and it's good to see you here together and know that your family continues to be proud and supportive of what you do. >> thank you. i've been blessed indeed. >> i agree with that. let me look at my notes of people asking questions and you were talking. on the april 27, 2016, event i think that's the mayflower hotel speech on foreign policy. you didn't have a room at that event where you had private meetings, did you? >> no, i did not. >> as i understand it, you went to a reception attended by how many people? >> i think two to three dozen. >> two to three dozen people. you went and heard a speech and then may have seen people on your way out.
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>> correct. >> so when you said you possibly had a meeting with mr. kislyak, did you mean you possibly met him? >> i didn't have any formal meeting with him. i'm confident of that. but i may have had an encounter during the reception. that's the only thing i cannot say with certainty. i did not. that's all i can tell you. >> that's what i thought you were saying. sometimes when i hear meeting, that would mean more than i met somebody. >> right. >> you might have met him at the reception. could you have met other ambassadors at that reception as well? >> i could. i remember one in particular that we had a conversation with whose country had an investment in alabama and we talked a little at length about that. but otherwise i have no recollection of a discussion with the russian ambassador. >> all right. so you were there. you've read since he was there,
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you may have seen him. but you had no room where you were having meetings with individuals to have discussions at the mayflower hotel that day. >> no. that is correct. >> well, on -- whenever you talked to mr. comey after he had had his meeting with the president, you think that that was probably the next day you didn't stay afterwards and see him after he left the oval office that night? >> no. i understand his testimony may have suggested that it happened right afterwards, but it was either the next morning which i think it was. or maybe the morning after that. it was we had a three times a week on national security briefing with the fbi that i undertake. and so it was after that that we had that conversation. >> we had that conversation now. what i'm not quite clear on is did you respond when he expressed his concern or not?
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>> yes, i did respond. i think he was incorrect. he indicated, i believe, that he was not totally sure of the exact wording of the meeting. but i do recall my chief of staff was with me. and we recall that i did affirm the long standing written policies of the department of justice concerning communications with the white house. we have to follow those rules and in the long run, you're much better off if you do. they do not prohibit communications one-on-one by the fbi direct we are the president. but if that conversation moves into certain areas, it's the duty -- the rules apply to the department of justice. so it's a duty of the fbi agent to say, mr. president, i can't talk about that. that's the way that should work. and apparently it did because he says he did not improperly
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discuss matters with the president. >> when mr. comey talked to you about that meeting, did he mention mr. flynn? >> no. he mentioned no facts of any kind. he did not mention to me that he'd been asked to do something he thought was improper. he just said he was uncomfortable, i believe, with it. >> after that discussion with mr. comey -- >> actually, i don't know that he said he was uncomfortable. i think he said maybe it was what he testified to was perhaps the correct wording. i'm not sure exactly what he said, but i don't dispute it. >> well, exactly -- what i remember him saying is that you didn't react at all and kind of shrugged. but you're saying you've referred him to the normal way these meetings are supposed to be conducted. >> i took it as a concern that he might be asked something that was improper. and i affirmed to him his
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willingness to say no. or not go in an improper way, improper direction. >> i'd just say finally, i'm assuming you wouldn't talk about this because it would relate to the may 8th meeting. but my sense is that no decision is final until it's carried out. my guess is that there are people at this dais that said they are going to let somebody go or fire somebody that never did that. so the fact that the president said that on may 8th doesn't mean that the information he got from you on may 9th was not necessary or impactful and i'm sure you're not going to say how many times the president said, we ought to get rid of that person. but i'm sure that's happened. >> senator king. >> thank you for joining us today. i respect your willingness to be here. you testified a few minutes ago,
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i'm not able to invoke executive privilege. that's up to the president. has the president invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today? >> he has not. >> then what is the basis of your refusal to answer these questions? >> senator king, the president has a constitutional -- >> i understand that, but the president hasn't asserted it. >> well -- >> you said you don't have the power to exert the power, so what is the basis for you to refuse the questions? >> i am protecting the right of the president to exert it if he chooses and there may be other privileges that could apply in this circumstance. >> i don't understand how you can have it both ways. the president can't not assert it and you've testified that only the president can assert it, and yet -- i just don't understand the legal basis for your refusal to answer. >> well, what we try to do -- i think most cabinet officials, others that you questioned recently, officials before the committee, protect the president's right to do so.
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if it comes to a point where the issue is clear and there's a dispute about it, at some point, the president will either assert the privilege or not or some other privilege can be -- would be asserted. but at this point, i believe it's premature for me to -- >> you're asserting the -- >> it'd be premature of me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege. that's not necessary at this point. >> you testified a few minutes ago that, quote, we were asked for our opinion. who asked for your opinion? >> you mean -- >> you testify we were asked for our opinion. >> my understanding is i believe i'm correct in saying the president has said so. that -- >> he didn't ask you directly? >> i thought you were asking about the privilege. >> no, no. >> you want go back to the --
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>> you said, quote, we were asked for our opinion. you and mr. rosenstein. >> i believe that was appropriate for me to say that because i think the president -- >> no, i'm just asking you, who asked you for your opinion? who asked you for your opinion? >> right. the president asked for our opinion. >> all right. so you just testified as to the content of the communication. >> that is correct, but i believe he's already revealed that. i believe i'm correct in saying that. that's why i indicated that when i answered that question. but if he hasn't and i'm in error, i would have constricted his constitutional right of privilege. you're correct. >> so you're being selective about the -- >> i'm not doing so intentionally. i'm doing so only because i believe he made that -- >> in any of your discussions about the firing of james comey, did the question of the russian investigation ever come up? >> i cannot answer that because it was a communication by the
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president or if any such occurred, it would be a communication that he has not waived. >> but he has not asserted executive privilege? >> he has not asserted executive privilege. >> do you believe the russians interfered with the 2016 elections? >> it appears so. the intelligence committee seems to be united in that. but i know nothing than what i've read in the paper. i've never received any briefing on how a hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced -- >> between the election, there was a memorandum from the intelligence committee on october 9th that detailed what the russians were doing. after the election, before the inauguration, you never saw any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country? >> no. >> you never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or read the intelligence reports? >> you might have been very critical of me if i as an active part of the campaign was seeking
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intelligence relating to something that might be relevant to the campaign. >> i'm not talking about the campaign. i'm talking about what the russians did. you received no briefing on the russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election? >> no. i don't believe i ever did. >> let's go to your letter of may 9th. you said based upon my evaluation and for the reasons expressed by the deputy, was that a written evaluation? >> my evaluation was an evaluation that had been going on for some months. >> is there a written evaluation? >> i did not make one. i think you could classify deputy attorney general rosenstein's memorandum as an evaluation. one that -- and he was the direct supervisor of the fbi director. >> and his evaluation was based 100 z% on the handling of the hillary clinton e-mails, is that
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correct? >> and a number of different matters as i recall. but he did explicitly lay out the errors that he thought had been made in that process by the director of the fbi. i thought they were cogent and accurate and far more significant than i think a lot of people have understood. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator langford. >> thank you, mr. chairman. attorney general sessions, good to see you again. >> thank you. >> you speak as a man eager to set the record straight. you've spoken very plainly from the opening statement all the way through this time. i am amazed at the conversations as if an attorney general has never said there were private conversations with the president. and we don't need to discuss those. it seems to be a short memory about some of the statements eric holder would and would not make to any committee in the house or the senate and would or would not turn over documents
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even requested that had to go all the way through the court system to finally the court saying no, the president can't hold back documents and the attorney general can't do that. so somehow some accusation that you're not saying every conversation about everything, there's a long history of attorney generals standing beside the president saying there are some conversations that are confidential. it does seem as well that every unnamed source story somehow gets a hearing. i was in the hearing this morning with rod rosenstein as we dealt with the appropriations request that originally obviously you were scheduled to be at. that rod rosenstein was taking your place to be able to cover. he was peppered with questions about russia. during that conversation as well, he was very clear that he has never had conversations with you about that. and that you have never requested conversations about that. he was also peppered with
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questions of the latest rumor of the day that is somehow the president is thinking about firing robert mueller and getting rid of him and was very clear that rosenstein himself said i am the only one that could do that and i'm not contemplating that nor would i do that. and no one has any idea where the latest unsourced story of the day is coming from but it's grabbing attention. i want to bring up a couple things specifically. one is to define the word recuse. i come back to your e-mail that you sent to jim comey and others that day on march the 2nd. this is what you had said in your e-mail. after careful consideration following meetings with officials over the course of the past several weeks, the attorney general has decided to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. the attorney general's recusal is not only with respect to such investigations, if any, but also
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extends to the department responses to congressional and media inquiries related to such investigations. is that something you have maintained from march 2nd on? >> absolutely. actually, i maintained it from the first day i became attorney general. we discussed those matters and i felt until and if i ever made a decision to not recuse myself, i should not as abundance of caution involve myself in studying the investigation of evaluating it. so i did not. also a note that the memorandum from my chief of staff directs thee agencies and one of the people directly it was sent to was james comey, director of the fbi. you should instruct members of your staffs to not brief the attorney general or any other officials in the office of the
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attorney general about or otherwise involve the attorney general or other officials in the office of the attorney general in any such matters described above. so we took the proper and firm and crystal clear position of the recusal meant recusal. >> relating to this april 27th meeting/nonmeeting in the same room at the same time, the national interest was asked specifically about this as well who was the host of that event. they stated this in writing. as the host, the center for national interest decided whom to invite and issued the invitations. the trump campaign did not determine or approve the list. guests including both democrats and republicans. most of the guests were washington-based foreign policy experts and journalists. invited russian ambassador kislyak and other russian ambassadors to the speech. reregularly invite russian ambassadors to start dialogue. we seated all four in the front
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row during the speech in deference to their diplomatic status. the campaign had nothing to do with the seating arrangement. attending the event and invited each to a short reception prior to the trump speech. the reception included approximately two dozen guests and a receiving line. the line moved quickly and any conversations with trump in that meeting were brief and could not be private. recollection is that the interaction between mr. trump and kislyak was polite pleasantrie pleasantries. we're not sure of any conversations between kids lee yak and jeff sessions. however in a group like this one, we consider it unlikely to engage in a meaningful private conversation. you have any reason to disagree with that? >> no. i think that's a very fair discrimination of the reception situation. i appreciate them having made that statement. >> great. i yield back.
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>> senator manchin. >> thank you. good for you to be here. >> thank you. >> i want to follow up a bit on what senator king had asked concerning you and i are about the same. we knew in our lifetime we never knew the russian government or the russian military to ever be our friend. and wanting the same things we wanted out of life. with that being said, the seriousness of this russian hacking is very serious to me and concerning. and you're saying that you had not been briefed on that. i think it was october 9th at that time i think mr. clapper and also mr. jeh johnson, homeland security, made that public what was going on. then on december 29th, president obama at that time expelled 35 russian diplomats, denied access to two russian-owned compound.
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and he broadened the existing. do you have any -- have you had any discussions or set in on any type of meetings or recommendations were made to remove those sapnctions? >> i don't recall any such meeting. >> and during the time, not from the president being inaugurated on january 20th, prior to that in the campaign up until the transition, was there ever any meetings he showed concern or consideration or just inquisitive of what the russians were really doing and if they'd really done it? >> i don't recall any such conversations. i'm not sure i understood your question. maybe i better listen again. >> you were part of the national security team. >> yeah. >> if he would have heard something about russia and capabilities and concern about what they could do to our election process, was there ever any conversations concerning that whatsoever? >> i don't recall it, senator
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manchin. >> i know it's been askied of you, the executive privileges and i understand that. but also when we had mr. comey here, you know, he couldn't answer a lot of things in open session. he agreed to go into a closed session. would you be able to go into a closed session? would it change your answers to us or your ability to speak for frankly on things we want to know? >> senator manchin, i'm not sure. the executive privilege is not waived by going in camera or in closed session. it may be that one of the concerns is that when you have a investigation ongoing as the special council does, it's often very problematic to have persons, you know, not cooperating with that council and the conduct of the investigation. may or may not be a factor in going into closed session. >> it would be very helpful, i
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think, the committee there's a lot of questions they'd like to ask. i know that you would like to answer if possible and maybe we can check into that a little further. if i could, sir, did you have any other meetings with russian government officials that had not been previously disclosed? >> i have racked my brain and i do not believe so. >> are there any other -- >> i can assure you that none of those meetings discussed manipulating a campaign in the united states in any way, shape, or form or any hacking or any such ideas. >> i'm going to go quick through this. are there any other meetings between officials and any other trump campaign officials that have not been disclosed? >> i don't recall any. >> did any of the following individuals meet with russian officials at any time during the campaign? go yes or no as i go through the list. paul manafort. >> repeat that, now. start over. >> to the best of your knowledge, sir, did any of these following individuals meet with russian officials at any point during the campaign?
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you can just say yes or no on this. paul manafort. >> i don't have any information that he had done so. he served as campaign chairman for a few months. >> steve bannon. >> i have no information that he did. >> general michael flynn. >> i don't recall it. >> reince priebus. >> i don't recall. >> steve miller. >> i don't recall him ever having such a conversation. >> corey lewandowski. >> i do not recall any of those individuals having any meeting with russian officials. >> carter page. >> i don't know. >> and i would finally ask this question because i always think we try to get -- you have innate knowledge -- >> there was -- there may have been some published accounts of mr. page talking with russians. i'm not sure. >> okay. as a former senator, you bring unique perspective to this investigation. because you've been on both sides. >> i have, indeed. all in all, it's better on that
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side. >> if you were setting on this side of the die i can't say -- >> nobody get to ask you about your private conversations with your staff. >> here you go. give us some advice. if you were sits on this side of the dais, what questions would you be asking? >> i would be asking whether or not -- i would be asking questions related to whether or not there was an impact on this election. >> what part of the story do you think we're missing? >> by foreign power. particularly the russians since the intelligence community has suggested and stated that they believe they did. but i do think members of this government have offices to run. and departments to manage. and, you know, the questions should be focused on that. >> is there a part of the story we're missing? i'm so sorry, mr. chairman. is there a part of the story we're missing? >> i don't know because i'm not involved in the campaign and had no information concerning it. i have no idea at what stage it is. you members of this committee
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know a lot more than i. >> thank you, general sessions. >> general sessions, i assure you were very much focused on russia's involvement. >> doesn't seem like it. >> our hope is that when we complete this process, we will lay the facts out for the american people so they can make their own determinations. we're grateful for what you've done. >> well, i am on this side of the dais so i can say a simple question that should be asked. i am on this side of dais. so a simple question that should be asked is did donald trump or any of his associates in the campaign collude with russia in hacking those e-mails and releasing them to the public? that's where we started six months ago. we've heard from six of the eight democrats on this committee and i don't think a single one of them asked that question. they've gone down lots of other rabbit trails but not that question. maybe that is because jim comey said last week as he did to donald trump that on three times he assured him he was not under investigation. maybe it's because multiple
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democrats on this committee have stated they have seen no evidence thus far after six months of our investigation and 11 months of an fbi investigation of any such collusion. i would just suggest what do we think happened at the mayflower? mr. sessions, are you familiar with what spies called trade craft? >> a little bit. >> that involves things like covert communications and dead drops and brush passes, right? >> that is part of it. >> do you like spy fiction? daniel silva, jason matthews? >> allen first. david ignatius. >> you like jason bourne or james bond movies? >> no. yes. i do. >> have you ever in any of these fantastical situations heard of a plot line so ridiculous that a sitting united states senator and ambassador of a foreign government colluded at an open setting with hundreds of other
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people to pull off the greatest caper in the history? >> thank you for saying that, senator cotton. it's like through the looking glass. what is this? i explained how in good faith i said how i had not met with russians because they were suggesting i as a surrogate met with russians. i said i didn't meet with them. now the next thing you know, i'm accused of some reception plotting some sort of influence campaign for the american election. it's just beyond my capability to understand. i really appreciate, mr. chairman, the opportunity to at least to be able to say publicly, i didn't participate in that. and know nothing about it. >> and i gather that's one reason why you wanted to testify today in public. last week mr. comey in dramatic
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fashion alluded to what you call innuendo. that there was some kind of classified intelligence that suggested you might have colluded with russia or that you might have otherwise acted improperly. you've addressed those allegations here today. do you understand why he made that? >> actually, i do not. nobody's provided me any information. >> thank you. i have a lot of questions. mr. blunt asked you if you had spoken in response to mr. comey's statement to you after his private meeting with the president on february 14th or february 15th. you said that you did respond to mr. comey. mr. comey's testimony said that you did not. do you know why mr. comey would have said that you did not respond to him on that conversation with you on february 14th or 15th? >> i do not. there was a little conversation. but there was a conversation and i did respond to him. perhaps not to everything he
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asked, but he -- i did respond to him. i think in an appropriate way. >> do you know why mr. comey mistrusted president trump from their first meeting on january 6th? he stated last week that he did but didn't state anything from that meeting that caused him to have such mistrust. >> i'm not able to speculate on that. >> let's turn to the potential crimes that we know have happened. leaks of certain information. here's a short list of what i have. the contents of allegedly transcripts of alleged conversations between mr. flynn and mr. kislyak. the contents of president trump's phone calls with australian and mexican leaders. the content of mr. trump's meetings with the russian foreign minister and ambassador. the leak of the manchester bombing suspect's identity and crime scene photos. and last week within 20 minutes of the session with comey, the basis of what his innuendo was.
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are these leaks serious threats to our national security and is the department of justice taking them with the appropriate degree of seriousness in investigating and ultimately going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law? >> thank you, senator cotton. we have had one successful case very recently in georgia. that person has been denied bail, i believe, and is being held in custody. but some of these leaks as you well know are extraordinarily damaging to the united states security. and we have got to restore a regular order principal. we cannot have persons in our intelligence agencies, our investigative agencies, or in congress leaking sensitive matters on staff. so this is -- i'm afraid will result in -- is already resulting in investigations and i fear that some people may find that they wish they hadn't
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leaked. >> thank you. my time has expired. but it was stated earlier that the republican platform was weakened on -- that is incorrect. i would note it was the democratic president who refused bipartisan requests of this congress to supply those arms to ukraine. >> senator harris. >> attorney general sessions, you have several times this afternoon prefaced your responses by saying to the best of your recollection. just on the first page of your three pages written testimony, do not recall, do not have recollection, do not remember it. my question is for any of your testimony today, did you refresh your memory with any written documents, be they your calendar, written correspondence, e-mails, anything? >> i tended to refresh my recollection but so much of this is in a wholesale campaign of
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extraordinary nature. that you're moving so fast. my conversation with the russian ambassador at the -- >> sir, i would like to -- >> i didn't keep notes on most of these things. >> will you provide this committee with the notes you did maintain? >> as appropriate, i will supply the committee with document. >> can you please tell me what you mean when you say appropriate? >> i would have to consult with lawyers in the department who know the proper procedure to -- before disclosing documents in the department of justice. and i'm not able to make that opinion today. >> sir, i am sure you prepared for this hearing today and most of the questions that have been presented to you were predictable. so my question to you is then did you review with the lawyers of your department if you as the top lawyer is unaware what the law is regarding what you can share with us and what you
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cannot share with us? what is privileged and not privileged? >> we discussed the basic parameters of testimony. i frankly have not discussed documentation rules. >> will you make a commitment to this committee you will share any written response be they your calendars, records, notes, e-mails or anything that has been reduced at any point in time in writing back to this committee where legally you actually have an obligation to do so? >> i'll commit to reviewing the rules of the department and as and when to respond appropriately. >> did you have any communications with russian officials for any reason during the campaign that have not been disclosed in public or to this committee? >> i don't recall it. but i have to tell you, i cannot testify to what was said as we were standing at the republican
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convention before the podium where i spoke. >> my question is only as to your knowledge -- >> i have no memory of that. >> as it relates to your knowledge. did you have any communication with any russian businessmen or any russian nationals? >> i don't believe i had any conversation with russian businessmen or russian nationals. >> are you aware of communicationings -- >> although a lot of people were at the convention. >> sir, i have -- >> you let me qualify it. if i don't qualify it, you'll accuse me of lying. so i need to be correct as best i can. >> i do want you to be honest. >> but i'm not able to be rushed this fast. it makes me nervous. >> are you aware of any communications with other trump campaign officials and associates that they had with russian officials or any russian nationals? >> i don't recall that. >> and are you aware -- >> at this moment. >> are you aware of any communications with any trump officials or did you have any
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communications with any officials about russia or russian interest in the united states before january 20th? >> no. i may have had some conversations and i think i did with the general strategic concept of the possibility of whether or not russia and the united states could get on a more harmonious relationship and move off the hostility. the soviet union did in fact collapse. it's really a -- >> thank you, sir. >> -- a tragic strategic event that we're not able to get along -- >> before being sworn in as attorney general, how did you typically communicate with then-candidate or president-elect trump? >> would you repeat that? >> before you were sworn in as attorney general, how did you typically can communicate with then-candidate or president-elect trump? >> i did not submit a
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memorandum. i did not make formal presentations -- >> did you ever communicate with him in writing? >> i don't believe so. >> and you referred to a long standing doj policy. can you tell us what policy it is you're talking about? >> well, i think most cabinet people as the witnesses you had before you earlier, those individuals declined to comment. because we're all about conversations with the president -- >> sir, i'm just asking you about the doj policy you referred to. >> -- policy that goes beyond just the attorney general. >> is that policy in writing is somewhere? >> i think so. >> so did you not consult it before you came before this committee knowing we would ask you questions about that? >> well, we talked about that. >> did you ask that it would be shown to you? >> the policy is based on the principle that the president -- >> sir, i'm not asking about the principle. >> well, i'm unable to answer the question. >> -- rely on the policy. did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would
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be the basis for your refusing to answer -- >> the witness should be allowed to answer the question. >> senators will allow the chair to control the hearing. senator harris, let him answer. >> please do. thank you. >> we talked about it. and we talked about the real principle that's at stake is one that i have some appreciation for as having spent 15 years the the dvepartment of justice. 12 as united states attorney. and that the constitution provides the head of the executive branch certain privileges. and that members -- one of them is confidentiality of communications. and it is improper for agents of any of the department -- any departments in the executive branch to waive that privilege without a clear approval of the president -- >> mr. chairman, i have asked mr. sessions for a yes or no. did you ask -- >> no, the answer is yes b i consulted.
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>> did you ask your staff -- >> the senator's time has expired. >> apparently not. >> senator cornyn. >> attorney general sessions, former director comey in his letter to fbi employees when he was terminated started this way. he said i've long believed that a president can fire an fbi director for any reason or no reason at all. do you agree with that? >> yes. and i think that was good for him to say. because i believe we're going to have a new and excellent fbi director, a person who is smart, disciplined with integrity and proven judgment that would be good for the bureau. and i think that statement probably was a valuable thing for director comey to say. i appreciate that he did. >> just to reiterate the timeline of your recusal and the rosenstein memo and your letter
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to the president recommending the termination of director comey, you recused from the russian investigation on march the 2nd, correct? >> the formal recusal took place on that date. >> the letter that you wrote forwarding the rosenstein memo to the president as a basis for director comey's termination was dated may the 9th. a couple of months after you'd recused from the russian investigation, correct? >> i believe that's correct. >> so isn't it true that the russian investigation did not factor into the -- your recommendation to fire director comey? >> that is correct. >> the memorandum written by the deputy attorney general, your letter to the president forwarding that recommendation didn't mention russia at all. is that your recollection? >> that is correct. >> so let's review what the
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basis was of deputy attorney general rosenstein's recommendation. he wrote in his memo on may 9th, you said i cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of secretary clinton's e-mails. and i do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. and of course he's talking about director comey. he went on to say the director -- that was director comey at the time -- was wrong to usurp the attorney general's authority on july 16. that was the date of the press conference he held. he went on to say that the fbi director has never empowered to supplant prosecutors and assume command of the justice department. finally he said compounding the error, the director ignored another long standing principle
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that we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation. in fact, there is written policy from the department of justice, is there not, entitled election year sensitivities. are you familiar with the prohibition of the justice department making announcements or taking other actions that might interfere with the normal elections? >> i am generally familiar with that. some of those were the memorandum after my time in the department. there's always been rules about it though. >> let me read an excerpt from a memo from the attorney general. march 9th, 2012, entitled election year sensitivities. it says law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative
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steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election. or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. such a purpose is inconsistent with the department's mission and with the principles of federal prosecution. do you agree with that? >> essentially, yes. >> so what -- essentially what the deputy general said is director comey violated department of justice direct i haves when he held a press conference. he announced that secretary clinton was extremely careless with classified e-mail and went on to other derogatory information including he thought she was extremely careless. yet went on to say no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her. that is not the role of the fbi
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director, is it? that is a job for the prosecutors at the department of justice. that's what was meant by deputy attorney general rosenstein when he said that comey usurped the prosecutors, is that right? >> that is correct. and former attorney general bill barr wrote an op-ed recently in which he said he had assumed that attorney general lynch had urged mr. comey to make this announcement so she wouldn't have to do it. but in fact, it appears he did it without her approval totally. and that is a pretty stunning thing. it is a stunning thing and it violates fundamental powers. and then when he reaffirmed that the rightness he believed of his decision on may 3rd i think it was, that was additional confirmation that the director's
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thinking was not clear. >> senator reed. >> thank you, chairman. senator heinrich and others have raised the issue of long standing rules. if there are written rules, would you provide them to the committee, please? >> i will. >> thank you very much. now, senator cornyn has made the point that the whole substance of your recommendation to the president to dismiss director comey was as unprofessional conduct with respect to the clinton administration. is that correct? >> i supported everything that the deputy attorney general put in his memoranda as good and important factors to use in determining whether or not he had conducted himself in a way that justified continuing in
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office. i think it pretty well speaks for itself and i believe most of it did deal with that. now, the discussion about his performance was a bipartisan discussion. it began during the election time. democrats were very unhappy about the way he conducted himself. and in retrospect in looking at it, i think it was more egregious than i may have understood at the time. >> general, if i may and i don't want to cut you off. >> i'll let you go. i'm sorry. >> excuse me, sir. but on july 7th when mr. comey made his first announcement about the case, you were on fox news and you said first of all, director comey is a skilled former prosecutor. and then you concluded by saying essentially that it's not his problem, it's hillary clinton's problem. then in november on november 6th after mr. comey again made news
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in late october by reopening, if you will, the investigation, you said again on fox news, you know, fbi director comey did the right thing when he found new evidence. he had no choice but to report it to the american congress where he had under oath testified. the investigation was over. he had to correct that and say this investigation ongoing now, i'm sure it's significant or else he wouldn't have announced that. so in july and november, director comey was doing exactly the right thing. you had no criticism of him. you felt that, in fact, he was a skilled professional prosecutor. you felt that his last statement in october was fully justified. so how can you go from those statements to agreeing with mr. rosenstein and then asking the president or recommending he be fired? >> i think in retrospect, as all
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of us began to look at that clearly and talk about it as respect to the department of justice, once the director had first got involved and embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation, which would have been better never have been discussed publicly. and said he -- it was over. then when he found new evidence, that came up, i think he probably was required to tell congress that it wasn't over. that new evidence had been developed. it probably would have been better and would have been consistent with the rules of the department of justice to never have talked about the investigation to begin with. once you get down that road, that's the kind of thing that you get into that went against classical prosecuting policies that i learned and was taught when i was a united states
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attorney and assistant united states attorney. >> if i may ask another question. your whole premise in recommending to the president was the actions in actionsing i involving secretary of state clinton, the whole clinton controversy. did you feel misled when the president announced his real reason for dismissing mr. comey was the russian investigation? >> i don't have -- i'm not able to characterize that fact. >> so -- >> i wouldn't try to comment on that. >> so you had no inkling that there was anything do request russia until the president of the united states basically declared not only on tv but in the oval office to the russian foreign minister saying the pressure's off now, i got rid of that nutjob, that came to you as a complete surprise? >> well, all i can say is, senator reed, that our recommendation was put in writing and i believe it was
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correct and i believe the president valued it, but how he made his decision is -- was his -- in his pro zbles you had no inkling that he was considering the russian investigation? >> well, i'm not going to try to guess what i thought. >> sir, i just, there is -- there is a scenario in which this whole recapitulation, the clinton, was a story, basically, a cover story that the president sort of tried to put out and then he quickly abandoned and his real reason was the russian investigation, which if it had been the case i expect you would in principle precluded yourself before any involvement. thank you. >> thank you. senator mccain. >> over the last few weeks the administration has characterized
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your previously undisclosed meetings with russian ambassador kislyak as meetings you took in your official capacity as a u.s. senator and a member of the senate armed services committee. as chairman of this committee, let me ask you a few questions about that. at these meetings did you raise concerns about russian invasion of ukraine or annexation of crimea? >> i did, senator mccain and i would like to follow up a little bit on that. that's one of the meetings that i -- that's one of the issues that i recall explicitly the day before my meeting with the russian ambassador i had met with the ukrainian ambassador and i heard his concerns about russia. and so i raised those with mr. kislyak and he gave, as you can imagine, not one inch. everything they did, the russians had done according to him, was correct and i remember pushing back on it and it was a bit testy on that subject. >> knowing you on the committee
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i can't imagine that. did you raise concerns about russia's support for president bash similar al assad and his use of chemical weapons against his own sit zensz? >> i can't recall whether this was discussed or not. >> you raise concerns about russia's interference in our electoral process or its interference in the electoral pro says of our allies? >> i don't recall that being discussed. >> at those meetings if you spoke with ambassador kislyak in your capacity as a member of the afrmd services committee you presumably talked with him about russia-related security issues that you have dem month stralted is important to you as a member of the committee? >> did i discuss security issues? >> i don't recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues. >> on -- repeat that, senator mccain, i'm sorry. >> the whole russia-related security issues that you demonstrated is important to you as a member of the committee,
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did you raise those with him? >> you mean the issues such as security issues. >> yeah. in other words, russia-related security issues, in your capacity as the chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, what russia-related issues did you hold hearings on or otherwise demonstrate a keen interest in? >> we may have discussed that, i just don't have a real recall of the meeting. i may -- i was not making a report about it to anyone, i just was basically willing to meet and see what he discussed. >> and his response was? >> i don't recall. >> during that 2016 campaign season, did you have any contacts with any representative including any american lop byist or agent of any russian company within or outside your capacity
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as a member of congress or a member of the armed services committee? >> i don't believe so. >> poe lit tickco recently reported in the middle of of of the 2016 elections the fbi found that russian diplomats whose travel to state department was supposed to track had gone missing some turned up wandering around the desert or driving around kansas. reportedly intelligence sources conclude that after about a year of inattention these movements indicate, one, that moscow's espionage ground game has grown stronger and quietly the kremlin has been trying to map the united states intelligence infrastructure. what do you know about this development and how the justice department and relevant u.s. government agencies are responding to it? >> we need to do more, senator mccain. i am woird about it the we also see that from other nations with these kind of technological skills like china and some of the other nations that are
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penetrating our business interests, our national security interests, as a member of the armed services committee, i did support and advocate and i think you supported legislation that would, and it's ongoing now that requires the defense department to identify weaknesses in our system and how we can fix them. but i would say to you, senator mccain, there is, in my short tenure here in the department of justice i've been more concerned about computer hacking and those issues than i was at the -- in the senate. it's an important issue, you're correct. >> "the washington post" reported yesterday rush's developed a cyber weapon that can disrupt the united states power grids and telecommunications infrastructure. this weapon is similar to what russian or russia allied hackers used to disrupt ukraine's
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electrical gl electrical grid in 2015. you can discuss how serious that is? >> i don't believe i can discuss the technological issues just to say that it is very disturbing that the russians continue to push hostile actions in their important policy. and it is not good for the united states or the world or russia, in my opinion. >> do you believe we volunteer a strategy in order to counter these ever increasing threats to our national security and our way of life? >> not sufficiently. we do not have a sufficient strategy dealing with technological and i.t. penetrations of our system. i truly believe it's more important than i ever did before and i appreciate your concern and leadership on that issue
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and, in fact, all of congress is going to have to do better. >> senator's time's expired. chair would recognize the advice chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman and general sessions thank you. and i particularly appreciate your last comments with senator mccain about the seriousness of this threat and that's why so many of us on this committee are concerned when the whole question of russian intervention, the president continues to be refer to it as a witch hunt and fake news and there doesn't seem to be a recognition of the seriousness of this threat. i share, i think most members do, the consensus that the russians massively interfered, they want to be continue to be interfere not to favor one party or another but to favor their own interest. and it is of enormous concern that we have to hear from the administration how they're going to take that on. i also believe comments have been made here about where we head in terms of some of the trump associates who may have had contacts with russians.
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and we've not got tone all of that yet because of the unprecedented firing of the fbi director that was leading this very same russian investigation that superseeded some of our activities. so those members who i hope will equally pursue the very troubling amount of smoke at least that's out there between individuals that were affiliated with the trump campaign, possible ties with russians i've not reached any conclusion but we've god to pursue that. final comment, and i understand your point, but you have to -- there were a series of comments made by mr. comey last week, i think members on this side of the aisle have indicated you understand executive privilege, understand classified setting. i do think we need as senator reed indicated and senator harris and others if there are these longstanding written
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procedures about this ability to have some other category to protect the conversations with the president, we'd like -- we'd like to get a look at them because we need to find out in light of some of the contradictions between today and last week where this all heads. at the end of the day, or this is not only -- let me restate what i said last time, this is not about relitigating 2016, it's about finding out what happened, about some of the serious allegations, about potential ties, but on a going forward basis making sure that the russians who are not finished in terms of their activities didn't end on the election day in 2016. we know that's ongoing and we have to be better prepared on an going-forward basis. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. chairman one brave comment if you mind. i do want to say that the chains at the top of the fbi should have no imfact whatsoever onhe


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